Researchers have discovered how pieces of bacterial cell wall cross the placenta and enter developing neurons, altering fetal brain anatomy and cognitive functioning after birth.
Males with autism have atypically enhanced excitation in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). This area of the brain is associated with social cognition and self-reflection. Autistic women showed a more intact mPFC response, which was associated with a better ability to camouflage social difficulties in real-world settings.
Researchers find that, compared with neurotypical children, those with autism have multiple redundant connections between neighboring brain areas at the expense of long-distance links.
A new study in the BMJ links antidepressant use in pregnant women to a very small increased risk of autism in their offspring. Researchers discovered 4.1% of children exposed to antidepressants while in the womb were diagnosed with ASD, where as only 2.9% of children whose mothers had a history of mental health problems but did not take take medications were diagnosed with autism.
Researchers implanted a genetic mutation that encodes the DAT protein from a child with ASD into mice. The mice began to exhibit autism-like behavioral deficits. Mice with the DAT T356M mutation had reduced social interaction and a loss in social dominance. The mice also demonstrated an increase in hyperactivity. At the physiological level, the researchers found impaired striatal dopamine transmission and clearance.